Nominated by:

Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, USA

Publisher of nominated edition:

Riverhead Books, USA

The Grief of Others

Leah Hager Cohen      

Longlist 2013

Is keeping a secret from spouse always an act of infidelity? And what cost does such a secret exact on a family?

The Ryries have suffered a loss: the death of a baby just fifty-seven hours after his birth. Without words to express their grief, the parents, John and Ricky, try to return to their previous lives. Struggling to regain a semblance of normalcy for themselves and for their two older children, they find themselves pretending not only that little has changed, but also that their marriage, their family, have always been intact. Yet in the aftermath of the baby’s death, long-suppressed uncertainties about John and Ricky’s relationship come roiling to the surface. A dreadful secret emerges, with reverberations that reach far into their past and threaten their future.

The couple’s children, ten–year -old Biscuit and thirteen–year old Paul, responding to the unnamed tensions around them, begin to act out in exquisitely – perhaps courageously – idiosyncratic ways. Yet as the four family members scatter into private, isolating grief, an unexpected visitor arrives, and they all find themselves growing more alert to the sadness and burdens of others – to the grief that is part of every human life but that also carries within it the power to draw us together.

Moving, psychologically acute, and gorgeously written, The Grief of Others asks how we balance personal autonomy with the intimacy of relationships, how we balance private decisions with the obligations of belonging to a family, and how we take measure of our own sorrows in a world rife with suffering. This novel shows how one family, by finally allowing itself to experience the shared quality of grief, is able to rekindle tenderness and hope.

(From Publisher)

About the Author

Leah Hager Cohen is the author of four non-fiction books, including Train Go Sorry and Glass, Paper, Beans, and four novels, including The Grief of Others and Heart, You Bully, You Punk.

She serves as the Jenks Chair in Contemporary American Letters at the College of the Holy Cross, teaches in the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University, writes the blog Love as a Found Object, and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review.

Librarian’s Comments

With gorgeous prose and piercing insights, Cohen’s latest novel explores the grief of a family tested by the death of a child. Simon Ryrie only lived for 57 hours, but the secrets surrounding his short life have a profound impact on both his parents and siblings in Cohen’s stunning, lyrical, and ultimately hopeful ode to healing and loss.

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